Campaigning Gets Underway For Indonesia's Presidential Election

Campaigning for Indonesia's presidential election officially got underway on Tuesday, with two of the three candidates beginning two months of whistle-stop touring to woo voters in a race to lead the world's third-largest democracy.

Indonesia holds presidential and legislative elections on Feb. 14, with Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto, the former governor of Central Java province, Ganjar Pranowo, and former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan vying to replace popular outgoing leader Joko Widodo after a decade in power.

Surveys have indicated that former special forces commander Prabowo is leading, with Ganjar second and Anies a distant third.

Ganjar, the ruling party's candidate, began his campaign in the easternmost South Papua province, with running-mate Mahfud MD starting at in the westernmost province of Aceh.

Ganjar had lunch with residents of Papua's Merauke town and listened to complaints about broken roads, difficulties in getting fuel and a lack of medical facilities, according to the deputy head of his campaign.

Papua is one of Indonesia's poorest regions.

Wearing a Papuan headdress, as well as the region's clothes and a woven bag, Ganjar promised a health facility with at least one medical worker in every village across the country.

"We start our fight to provide prosperity for all Indonesians," said Ganjar.

Anies began his campaign by visiting homes in a densely populated area in the capital, Jakarta, promising to lower the prices of staples and to increase job opportunities. His running-mate, Muhaimin Iskandar, began campaigning in Indonesia's second-most-populated province of East Java.

Prabowo and his vice-presidential nominee, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, the eldest son of President Widodo, will start their campaign later, though their team began distributing lunches, milk and vitamins for children and pregnant mothers

"We launch this programme simultaneously across Indonesia," said the chief of Prabowo-Gibran campaigning team.

The candidates are due to appear in debates organised by the election commission but no dates have been set.

About 205 million of the more than 270 million people in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country are eligible to vote.

Jokowi, as the president popularly known, has been accused over meddling in the election with critics saying he aims to maintain power through his son, Gibran.

Civil rights groups as well as the camps of Anies and Ganjar have called on Jokowi to remain neutral.

The president has rejected such accusations saying it is up to the people to decide the outcome of the vote.

Reporting by Ananda Teresia; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Martin Petty
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